MP Bongani Bongo’s corruption acquittal overturned, fresh trial ordered

ANC MP Bongani Bongo

ANC MP Bongani Bongo

Published May 7, 2024


In overturning 2021 high court ruling by former Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe which had cleared ANC MP Bongani Bongo, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found that the high court made several “material misdirections” on questions of law in relation to the case.

The Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on Monday was successful in its efforts to appeal a case of corruption against Bongo, after the SCA overturned the 2021 high court ruling and ordered Bongo’s trial to be started afresh, before a differently constituted court. The corruption case in question relates to Parliament’s inquiry into state capture at Eskom in 2017, where it is alleged Bongo attempted to bribe an evidence leader to halt proceedings.

The allegation is that a senior manager of Legal and Constitutional Services in the Office of the Speaker of Parliament was allegedly offered an unspecified amount of money to collapse the inquiry.

Bongo was arraigned in the high court on one count and two alternative counts of corruption in relation to the alleged incident.

The State alleged that Bongo had committed the crime of “corrupt activities relating to public officers” under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.

According to court papers, in relation to evidence at the trial, at a meeting with the evidence leader, Bongo allegedly told the evidence leader: “Eskom’s people were worried about incriminating evidence against them and there would be police officials waiting to arrest them”.

“(The evidence leader) testified that he was ‘confused’ as to what exactly was required of him and again asked the respondent (Bongo) how he could be of assistance. The respondent said that the inquiry could not proceed in his (evidence leader) absence and that he should therefore fake illness and take sick leave. (The evidence leader) protested and told (Bongo) that the inquiry was initiated by the politicians and that only they had the power to stop it. (Bongo) then told (the evidence leader) ‘(j)ust name the price and tell me how you would help stop the inquiry,” court papers read.

Bongo pleaded not guilty to all charges and submitted a written plea explanation denying the allegations.

The State called several witnesses and after it had closed its case, Bongo applied for discharge in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (CPA).

The State then filed an application to reserve six questions of law for consideration by the SCA under section 319 of the CPA. The high court dismissed the State’s application without providing reasons, court papers read. The State appealed the high court’s refusal to reserve the questions of law. The SCA granted the State leave to appeal and considered the merits of the reserved questions of law.

Considering the merits of the case, SCA Acting Judge John Smith ruled: “It is clear that the trial court was of the erroneous view that the respondent’s request to collapse the inquiry could only constitute the crime of corruption if the latter had been offered a specific sum of money as gratification. If the mistakes of law had not been made, the trial court would have found that there was sufficient evidence upon which a court, acting reasonably, may have convicted the respondent of the main or alternative counts.

“The order of the trial court discharging the respondent in terms of s 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, at the close of the State’s case, is hereby set aside and the matter is remitted for trial denovo before a differently constituted court.”

Western Cape NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “Western Cape DPP advocate Nicolette Bell lauded the success as it emphasised the NPA’s stance to ensure that there are just outcomes and the rule of law.”

Bongo’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment by deadline on Monday.

Cape Times

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